Tag Archives: hope

Aunt Becky, PhD, and the Prayer of Relinquishment

At the end of the race, there are almost always bananas.

At the end of the rainbow, there is supposed to be a pot of gold.

At the end of a journey, a destination.



And at the end of the five stages of grief, there lies acceptance.

I don’t know that I’ve ever grieved heartily and with enough awareness as an adult to really notice any given stage of grief. Not until yesterday… when in less than 24 hours I managed to go from stage 1 (blissful denial) to rapid vacillation between stages 2, 3, and 4 in a torrent of tears and snot (so much snot) before I finally settled into a puffy-eyed, rosy lipped (my lips get very bright pink when I cry a lot) depression.

Puffy-eyed bedtime and only the Chamber of Secrets could provide me solace.
Puffy-eyed bedtime and only the Chamber of Secrets could provide me solace.


So, what happened, exactly? We’ll do it stage by stage.

1. Denial

I had a lovely time on Sunday night, the night before the embryo transfer. My cousin-in-law Megan had her second annual Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis fundraiser at UPaint and Party in Wausau. Almost everyone painted a gorgeous picture of a lovely little bird silhouetted against a bright sky flying from it’s cage. My painting somehow got a dementor in it, but I still had a blast. It was nothing but fun and I was in good spirits about Monday’s transfer. Yes, I only had three embryos, but it could be great! That was three chances — making for a potential family of five humans and my sweet Curly girl to boot. I was good.

The dementor just kind of happened...
The dementor just kind of happened…

Even Monday morning, though nervous and stressed about heading out the door a bit late, I was still making The Jerk-based jokes with my family.

Courtesy of my Shabsky.
Courtesy of my Shabsky.

And that’s all I need…

2. Anger

We arrived in Madison a mere 4 minutes late for our scheduled appointment. Big thanks to the state of Wisconsin for upping our speed limits to 70 mph — big help yesterday. The nurse brought us back to the procedure area, same as before, and began to collect vitals, provide information, prep us with our gowns and caps and booties and all that… and I noticed that all the while, she kept saying “the embryo.” Part of me assumed it was because they were planning to just transfer one, which was always the goal. A much darker part of me knew what it really meant though.

There was only one embryo left. Two of the three we had, the three I had been banking on, had stopped developing. Just stopped. We were going to transfer only one because we had only one.

The one. I'm sure someday I'll make Highlander jokes about this. Too soon.
The one. I’m sure someday I’ll make Highlander jokes about this. Too soon.

And that one? Not even ideal. Not sure on the details… and this image means pretty much nothing to me (no wonder they call it a ball of cells, eh?) so I can’t exactly glean anything from that, but something about it not being as developed as it should have been — an early blast instead of a mature/late/something one. I don’t know. It was hard to hear the embryologist over the buzzing in my ears that always comes when I start trying to hold back tears.

I was so unbelievably, inconsolably (even by Valium) sad. And angry. ONE?!?! After ALL THAT?! After all we had been through, all the thousands of dollars and hundreds of injections and ultrasounds and trips and tears and everything… just one. One shot. One sub-par shot.

But we did SO much. We’ve been through SO FREAKING MUCH. And so many people who do NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING, but get it on once or twice have babies all the dang time. ALL THE TIME. Why are they special? Why am I not? Why are they so obnoxiously #blessed and is #cursed even a thing?! Because I obviously am. What’s wrong with me that even with thousands and thousands of dollars of medical intervention this is still the best I can do??? One.

And if that one doesn’t work? There’s nothing in the freezer to try again. Nothing. We have to start over from zero. Physically, emotionally, financially from zero. Do it alll over again. And I know I’m too close, and I know this isn’t where we are yet, but I can’t. I shouldn’t have to! I don’t want to!! It’s not FAIR!!! (Which is truly the worst thing you can say as an adult because by this point in my life I am well aware that life is not fair and nobody every said it would be.)

3. Bargaining

But it only takes one. One is enough. One is better than zero and I’ve prayed and hoped and begged and done everything right. Everything I could do. I would do anything — hasn’t what I’ve done so far proven that? Wouldn’t we be good parents? Don’t we deserve a family?

Even just this weekend, the priest talked about the little boy who made a miracle happen by bringing Jesus his meager loaves and fishes. I’ve brought him mine, haven’t I? With everything I have done, all that I’ve been through… it’s time for our miracle now, isn’t it?

And there it is… the little embryo between the two air bubbles.

embryo ultrasound labeled

Or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know. As far as I’m concerned, this actually could be a print out of an ultrasound from a cow and I’d be none the wiser. But that has to be good, right? That you can see where it is? Inside me? Please, I’ll do anything to keep it there, to make it grow, to let it be life.

4. Depression

But then again, it really doesn’t matter anyway. It’s out of my hands and come next Wednesday, when we can finally test, this will all be over. Yes, pregnancy is a possibility. But really? If after all that, we were left with one embryo. Just the one, just hanging in there, is it really very likely that we’ll be pregnant at all? I have lost my hopefulness, my optimism. The best of it, the stuff on the inside. I have to keep saying to everyone, “Oh yes! It’s very exciting! We could be pregnant right now– not too much longer ’til we find out! Keeping our fingers crossed!!” When really, I know otherwise. I know, you know? And the best news of all — my attitude will not change anything and if ONE MORE MOTHER EFFING PERSON TELLS ME OTHERWISE I AM GOING TO FREAKING LOSE IT. (Oops… that bit might have been anger again.) You cannot visualize or positive energy or pray or wish or hope yourself into pregnancy. It’s biology. And my biology hasn’t really felt like cooperating so far. It is what it is (sorry, Aimee — I know you hate that phrase, but isn’t it the best depressive phrase kind of ever?) and I am where I am and what’s done is done and it’ll all be over soon.

Back and forth and back and forth, sometimes anger, sometimes bargaining, sometimes depression over a frightening number of cycles since yesterday afternoon. And then sometime this morning, as I chatted with my friend Marie (Seth, if we ever do have a baby, her middle name (or even his middle name, to be honest) is going to have to be Marie — fair warning) about normal things, the things we chat about all the time, and I felt my funk start to lift just a bit I started thinking about what acceptance might actually mean. And I realized that Seth’s Aunt Becky had kind of already set me up for it a while ago, believe it or not. Probably on purpose too. She’s super wise and all knowing like that. Like Dumbledore. A doctor even, the good kind, PhD-style like me. Her PhD isn’t actually in theology, although as a self-taught theologian she’s quite impressive, if I do say so myself.

Aunt Becky is on the right -- she says cool things like "academic wonks," is the homeliest in a good way person I know, AND throws groundbreaking bachelorette parties for her colleagues.
Aunt Becky is on the right — she says cool things like “academic wonks,” is the homeliest-in-a-good-way person I know, AND throws groundbreaking bachelorette parties for her colleagues.

A few weeks back she sent me a link to this article about the prayer of relinquishment:

The Prayer of Relinquishment by Catherine Marshall

Maybe I’m really late to the game and this is old news for everybody else, but in this moment, I’m so crazy grateful to Aunt Becky, PhD, for sharing it with me and I can’t recommend reading the whole thing enough if you’re in any capacity inclined toward spirituality. It’s so good.

This is the crux of it all, at least to me and right now:

“…it says, ‘This is my situation at the moment. I’ll face the reality of it. But I’ll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.’ Acceptance, therefore, never slams the door on hope.

Yet even with hope our relinquishment must be the real thing, because this giving up of self-will is the hardest thing we human beings are ever called on to do.”

5. Acceptance

So as Catherine Marshall says Mrs. Nathaniel Hawthorne said once upon a time… why should I doubt the goodness of God?

I wear my bracelet all the time, the one that says “Always.” as a reminder that God is good. Always. No matter what. Why would this moment be any different? Pregnant or not, my life will go on. Pregnant or not, Seth and I will still love each other and we’re really lucky to have that. Pregnant or not, our little family will continue to flourish and decide what to do from there. All I can do right now is accept what is to come, relinquish the notion that I have any control over it, and carry on for the next several days until we have an actual answer to which I can react.

Yes, it’s hard. So so so hard. But as Melissa told me last night, even Jesus got angry. Why shouldn’t I? God gave me all these emotions and I’m free to feel them. They’re not wrong. They’re normal. And this is so hard. It’s no wonder that I feel angry and sad and depressed and worried and even hungry at times. (So so hungry.) We feel things. It’s what we do.


So stages of grief and all that aside… we had an embryo (i.e. the embryo) transferred to my uterus yesterday. At present, it’s a little ball of cells floating in space and the hope is that it will eventually implant into the uterine lining, effectively establishing a viable pregnancy. I don’t know how likely that is or is not. All I know is that on August 5th, we’ll do a blood test for HCG — a pregnancy test (not the pee on a stick kind). A negative is the real thing. Negative = negative. A positive could still be a false positive though, so if we do get a positive result, we have to do another blood test two days later on August 7th to look for rising levels of HCG, which will effectively confirm the positive result. It would be lovely to think that maybe I could look for signs and symptoms of pregnancy in the interim, but with the hormone overload my body is currently going through, I already have just about all of them and there’s no way any sign of actual pregnancy could be differentiated from the craziness happening in my body baby or no… so we wait.

Wait and accept and relinquish and let that little bit of hope in because that’s pretty much all we can do.

Advent for Thirty: Hope is the Thing With Feathers (and maybe dinosaurs, too)

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

Ahhhh… hope. To discuss my thoughts on hope, I really have to start with what I consider the opposite.

Have you ever had a case of the eff-its? It’s a condition to which I am highly susceptible.

Never heard of it? Let me explain.

A case of the eff-its happens when you give up hope and just say EFF IT. So, essentially, it’s the opposite of hope.

I’ve been known to say eff it  with respect to eating (ok, especially eating), exercising, cleaning, studying, yard work, cooking, hair styling, grad schooling/experimenting, etc, etc, etc.  But if I’m totally honest with myself, as satisfying as screaming EFF IT and diving into some sort of lactose-laced decadence (sans lactaid, because I’m a glutton for punishment when I’m doing it to myself), hope is always better.

In 2013, I was presented with an occasion to choose hope and I hoped harder and more vehemently than I’d ever hoped for anything before. In May, my grandfather fell into a canal in Venice, Italy and took an enormous amount of contaminated water into his lungs. Given his age, lung condition, and long-term history of smoking, the Italian doctors gave him very little chance of survival. But you guys, he pulled through. Against all odds, and perhaps on the strength of hope and love alone. During that time, all I wanted was for my Grandpa to come home again and I hoped for it night and day for the entire month long ordeal. Never once did I feel a sense of despair, never once did I give up hope and say eff it. How could I? The thing I hoped for was worth it.

So perhaps, then, the secret to hope is making sure that the thing you’re hoping for is truly worth it?

When I contract the eff its about diet and exercise, it’s usually because I feel like I’ve eaten something “bad” or failed to work out hard enough, but recently, I embraced the notion of Health At Every Size (HAES) in combination with the idea of living the healthiest life you can enjoy. I can more reasonably hope for a healthy lifestyle and comfort in my own skin than I can hope for a body and/or lifestyle that’s simply not enjoyable for me to maintain.

After 30, I hope for a healthy and enjoyable life.

When I contract the eff its about cleaning, it’s usually because I’m tired and I’ve set unreasonable expectations for myself. I make a mile long to do list and become overwhelmed. But it’s amazing how nice it feels to wake up and make breakfast in a kitchen that’s been tidied up. Just one little thing. And I think I can hope for a basic level of maintenance clean, enough to keep my home a peaceful place for us to live, without feeling the need to edge the carpets and dust the blinds on a weekly basis.

After 30, I hope for a peaceful and comfortable home.

Grad school weakened my mental immune system and I was highly prone to the eff its during that time. In retrospect, I think that’s because the only thing I ever hoped for was to be done. I took no pleasure from the process because it was never the end. And suddenly, the magnet my Aunt Susan gave me during grad school makes so much sense:

Yes, it's very dirty... it's been magneted to a lot of different things in a lot of different places for a lot of years.
Yes, it’s very dirty… it’s been magneted to a lot of different things in a lot of different places for a lot of years.

Right. Happiness is not defined by getting to the destination, but rather by finding happiness in the moment. I need to hope for happiness rather than the thing I expect to bring it, because if I’ve learned anything in the last 30 years, it’s that happiness can be found in the most unexpected of places.

After 30, I hope for happiness, wherever it may be.

I suppose the place where hope has never really deserted me… no, let me rephrase that. The place where, in my life, I have been least likely to desert hope has been in relationships. There are a lot of people in this world that I love very, very much and as evidenced by the immense hope I held on to while my Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt suffered through my grandfather’s terrible ordeal in Italy this spring, the hope I can feel for their safety, well-being, and happiness, is truly limitless.

After 30, I will continue to hope for all-things-good-and-faith-and-peace-when-they-are-not for all the people I love.

Hope truly is a thing with feathers and in my first 30 years (or perhaps in the last year of my first 30 years) I’ve learned to appropriately direct it to what truly matters in my life, regardless of the storm. Much like it’s cousin love, hope asks for nothing in return and is not in limited supply. Of course, it can be accompanied by disappointment should the thing you hope for not come to be, but hope for peace or recovery or strength or gratitude can simply take its place.

PS: You know what else was a thing with feathers? Even if only briefly? Dinosaurs. Excellent.


A new and personal kind of advent… or here comes 30.

According to Wikipedia (omg, a venue in which I can legitimately cite Wikipedia! hold on for a second while I savor this moment……….. consider it savored!), advent is “a season observed in many Western churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.” Clearly, Wikipedia knows what’s up!

I’ve always liked advent, probably because of the candles, but have really latched on to it with greater fervor in the last year or two. Apparently, someone picked up on that because the day after I frantically scoured all of Marshfield looking for 3 purple candles and a pink one, my mother- and father-in-law dropped off a beautiful advent wreath as an early Christmas gift. (How did they know?! Seth swears he didn’t tell them…) Since I absolutely couldn’t stand the thought of candles that didn’t match, I had settled on four white, vanilla-scented glass votives clustered around a poinsettia. The advent wreath my in-laws gifted to me was much more beautiful and included its own little Nativity scene. I’m in love with it.

Advent Wreath

I have to be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t actually get to light all of the candles, and certainly not at the appropriate time. It just didn’t feel right to leave my kennel-bound puppy in the other room while we had a nice candlelit dinner (and she cannot be on linoleum right now without doing the whole Bambi-on-ice thing) so we mostly ate near the kennel as we waited for a miracle for the knee-that-simply-will-not-heal.


Even though I didn’t get to light all the candles in my own home, I was still able to reflect on what they mean and how important those things are to this beautiful season.





And lastly, on Christmas day, the Jesus candle, which is in my mind all of those things (hope, peace, joy, and love) wrapped into one.

I had a truly lovely Christmas, enjoying a brief time (marked by an unfortunate ice storm) at my parents’ house in Michigan and a day of gifts and food and warmth at my in-laws in Mosinee. But with Christmas come and gone, my thoughts, as usual, turn to my birthday, which is coming up mid-January.

On January 14th, I will turn 30. And I’ve had lots and lots of feelings about that number, which I plan to discuss later. Thirty feels like it should be something of a big deal. True, there are no new privileges connected to it, like a driver’s license or the ability to rent a car, no major milestones, like your sweet 16 or “adulthood” at 18. (Perhaps you reached the maturity of adulthood at the age of 18; I personally did not. Hence, the quotation marks.) So I’m going to have to do something else to make it a big deal– to reflect on those years between 1984 and 2014 and to decide how I want to enter this new phase of my life.

To use the exact advent imagery might be blasphemous or heretical or something like that (though that’s certainly not the intent). So I think I’ll write some blog posts instead.

This week, I will write about my hopes for 30.

During the week of December 29th, I will write about making peace with 30 and finding joy at 30.

During the week of January 6th, I will write about love at 30 and I will highlight 30 years of silver linings in my life.

And finally, on Tuesday, January 14th, I will welcome 30 with all of the hope, peace, joy, and love it deserves!


And cake.

Because I love cake.

And I can’t imagine that 30 is going to change that.